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Anyone near a Mongolian BBQ?

So there is a Mongolian BBQ that is near us and a few strange vegan friends of mine are pretty much begging me to go. From their description, it sounds like a grilled salad bar. anyone been to one?

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  1. I love it! I would describe it more like a place where you personally choose every ingredient, including all the oils and sauces, that go in your stir fry. They also offer Italian food, but you usually see people doing Chinese. So if you're tracking your nutrition it's cool because you are in control of everything.

    1. Mongolian BBQ rocks! I think there are lots of different places, some chains, some not. It's pretty fun, actually. You go through like a buffet line and choose various meat options (the one I went to in Sioux City recently also had tofu), noodles, vegetables, and then oils & sauces, and then you hand it to these guys at this enormous round cooking surface. They cook it for you, and then give it to you on a plate.

      There's actually a chain of these around here now, called HuHot (evidently after Genghis Khan's capital city; I think it's a silly name for a restaurant, but they didn't consult me before choosing it). They take all the guesswork out of the process, telling you what order to put things in your bowl, and how much oil/sauce to put in, and even providing "recipes" of sauces to get various flavors. I've been to one in West Des Moines and the one in Sioux City, and was impressed. The only thing I missed from the one we used to go to in Portland, which was not a chain I don't think, was a supply of little mu shu-like pancake/tortilla things.

      1. There's one at my local mall. It's called the Great Con, or something.

        1. I agree that Mongolian grills or "barbecues" are great fun. One recommendation: As mentioned above, many of these places have standard recommendations for how many spoonfuls of which type of sauce to ladle on your bowl of goodness before it is cooked. I would recommend following your own instincts instead. Often the standard recommendations produce a sweet and salty concoction designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator. You can take more control of your meal by deciding how many spoonfuls of each type of sauce to use. If your bowl is too dry to cook, the staff can always add a little water when the food hits the grill.

          Also, avoid the temptation to fill your bowl to overflowing. Sometimes less is more, and customers that cram everything imaginable in their bowls usually end up with a serving of undifferentiated mush. If you choose carefully, knowing that you can try something different on a later visit, you'll probably have a better experience.

          1 Reply
          1. re: silverbear

            Last time I went I went through the whole process twice, and did it a little different each time. I followed one of their "recipes" once, and got some nice peanut-sauce noodles. The other time I just did what I thought would be good: a bunch of garlic oil and some other stuff. Both of them were quite tasty. I just wish they were closer than 75 miles away.

          2. Mongolian BBQ is okay; I wish the presentation of the meat/toppings/sauces was more attractive. At the location I've been to, patrons stand in a cafeteria-type line to fill their bowls at what looks like a fast food salad bar-type arrangement. I'd prefer to see stations set up so you can go directly to the meats or vegetables instead of down the entire line, shuffling after the person in front of you.
            That said, M BBQ is a fun concept; the place is always packed, especially in the summer months.

            5 Replies
            1. re: swissgirl

              I've been to ones that have things set up at separate stations; when it gets busy everyone goes to the salad bar line mentality almost instantly.

              Usually when I hit a Mongolian BBQ, I'll make an ENORMOUS bowl and then take the rest home. I'll get two full meals out of it just about every time.

              1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                The ones I've been to won't let customers do that. You're lucky!

                1. re: wyf4lyf

                  The one that offers doggie bags is YC's in the Phoenix area. The doggie bags cost 50 cents for a reason.

                  Incidentally, when I lived down in Tucson I absolutely loved Iron Grill over on Tanque Verde. I hope it's still there.

                  1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                    It is. There's a newer place on Broadway near Swan now...I think it's run by the same people but it's a bit nicer atmosphere.

                    1. re: wyf4lyf

                      Yep. They've also got a place on Campbell, near Ft. Lowell. Next to Yuki sushi.

            2. Some are good, some just suck. It depends on if they have a somewhat modern esthetic, or if they're stuck in the old 1950s-1950s Army Base paradigm. There's a chain in the Detroit area that actually has a separate cooktop just for vegetarians, so that you're not getting everyone else's beef and pork fat on your tofu.

              Like salad bars, there is a tendency to overstuff your plate, then your tummy!

              1. For my first Mongolian BBQ experience, I was taken as a guest by two young college kids whose budget was severly limited. They taught me to ignore the line and fill my bowl "their way", i.e. expensive ingredients on the bottom and top the bowl w/ veggies which can tower over the top. Not the other way around - or the way the line is set up - with chunky items like broccoli, carrots, cabbage, onions first and the expensive meat at the end. (They actually used two bowls - one to fill and the second placed on top for "squashing".) Clever boys!

                1. I like em -- there's are different strategies to use if it's an all-you-can-eat or a sold-by-weight type or an all-you-can-fit-in-one-bowl. It's not high-cuisine but it's fun, the sauces provided make it more tasty than a grilled salad bar.

                  Sometimes you luck out and get one that has a asian iced dessert bar too -- so you can have shaved ice with condensed milk, jelly cubes and sweetened mung beans for dessert.

                  1. we used to live near one - my husband STILL misses it! one recommendation (I learned this the hard way) get in line in front of your DC if they like really spicy food - my husband loads his mongolian with 5-6 big spoonfuls of the chili oil/paste - and I couldn't figure out why my food was too hot to eat! If I got stuck behind him I'd ask the chef to clean the chili oil off the grill before he cooked my food. :)

                    1. I enjoy them. It's not gourmet, but it's a fun way to eat, and it's pleasing to everyone. :) The one I went to as a student was all you can eat for $15, so you can imagine it's burgeoning popularity....

                      What was super funny is that when we were students, that was actually a pretty nice meal out for us. We took some French exchange students there (as I said, it was a treat!), and they were absolutely HORRIFIED by the whole thing. It was kinda funny, but also a little offensive as hosts that they would so openly express their scorn for this.

                      I always enjoy it. :)

                      1. We have two in our area. One is a small chain (2 or 3 stores). I've never been happy with meals there because their style is "American over the top." Too many food choices, most of which do not go together well. Combining sauce ingredients was left up to the customer, too often resulting in something entirely inedible.

                        The other one is a dump, been around since Year 1. I didn't want to go but SO dragged me in. Major revelation! Great sign #1 - the restaurant was filled with Asian customers. And boy, did we take lessons on how to (over)fill a bowl from them. The meat and veg choices were more limited although by no means scanty but everything meshed with everything else. The real difference was in the sauces. They give you 4 basic flavor choices and you tell them on a scale of 1-10 how spicy you want it. The chefs mix the sauce so it's completely idiot-proof.

                        Beyond that I agree with everyone else. Certainly not gourmet, but when it's done right it's fun and filling.

                        1. I was introduced to Mongolian BBQ in the 80s when I was in college. That was still the best one I've been to. Everything was beautifully set out and fresh. I still remember the vats of fresh chopped garlic and fresh grated ginger I could use to my heart's content. And they had lamb and shrimp as well as the ubiquitous chicken, pork, beef and tofu. The BBQ guy always had a huge smile on his face, was incredibly welcoming (I think he was the owner, too), and he made sure to keep the piles he was cooking completely separate.

                          I still love Mongolian BBQ. It can be an incredibly healthy meal if you choose lots of veggies, tofu and just a little lean meat. I do love how you can make it different each time. The one drawback can be for people who don't like spicy/hot food (like my spouse) as often the sauce(s) from one pile will flow into another pile and and flavor things in ways you might not want. If you're really sensitive, you can ask the cook to clean the grill.

                          1. There's one near me, but it's just ok. I kinda feel like I'm doing all the work putting together my meal and they're just stir-frying it for a minute or two, but I have friends who love Mongolian bbqs.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Chocolatechipkt

                              I agree

                              There is one about 10 miles from me.

                              I really don't like it that much nothing special or that great tasting about it.

                              1. re: Chocolatechipkt

                                The biggest joy though, is not having to do all the chopping! :)

                              2. Its good if you go in not expecting much. You can control your meat, veggies and sauces. I used to love it in college because I could make my order as hot as I like it. The chain that was in Ann Arbor, BD's Mongolian BBQ usually had almost every kind of meat and veggie you can think of, had maybe 6-10 sauces to choose from, 4-5 types of oil and a big selection of spices and hot sauce.

                                One problem is you leave smelling like the inside of a grill.

                                1. There are several in my area - I still go back on a regular basis to the first one I ever went to. Its all you can eat at the 'salad bar' section of it, and in addition to that they give you egg drop soup, an appetizer like fried shrimp or egg roll, a piece of Mongolian bread (its like very dense, flakey sesame pastry) and desert. It was always very good, but it took me a lot of experimentation to find out what combos really worked, and I think a more mature pallette over the years to truely enjoy it. What I always found amusing is that, despite that its all you can eat, people still tried to pile up as much as possible in their bowl.

                                  1. There's a pretty good "all you can eat" Mongolian Grill (Chang's Mongolian Grill in Everett WA) that I go to occasionally when I visit my Dad for lunch (it's a bit out of the way from here though.) The trick seems to be not to go overboard on the noodles (I'm a pasta junkie though, so I haven't figured this out quite yet...) They provide rice paper wraps at the table, plus soup (I particularly like their Hot and Sour soup) and ice cream for dessert, for a reasonable price (I think it's $8 for lunch, $12 for dinner, but they have more seafood choices for dinner as well.) It's not the type of place you go to all the time, but it's pretty good to go every once in a while.

                                    1. Mongolian BBQ does rock - my only concern is that you said you'd be with some vegans - if they're true vegan, they're not going to be very happy in that yeah, you can choose all of your own vegetables, sauces, etc. - but all of BBQ places that I have been too -- all use the same (there are usually 2-4 of them) wok surface areas, and therefore, the meats of other people's stir fry would in essence, be interacting with their veggie-friendly stir-fries. I know it sounds trite- but die hards won't dig on that, even if it is cleansed with additional peanut oil or the like.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: snoboardbabe77

                                        Those die-hards are best off going to exclusively vegetarian restaurants, then. There are not many places that keep a separate set of cookware just for the veg dishes.

                                        1. re: snoboardbabe77

                                          At the Mongolian Grill places I've been to around here, they don't use woks, they cook everything on one big round cast iron griddle (I was actually there today, and took a picture on my phone of it for some reason.) Then again, I don't think they particularly care much about being vegan friendly anyway, This approach does occasionally result in a bit of mixing between portions though, although it's usually not a big deal. I think this form of grill is as much for show as it is for practicality.

                                        2. I have been to some here in seattle and they were sub-par--I felt like if I wanted to make my own stir fry with uninventive ingrediants, well hell, I would have done it at home (particularly bad experience with one on broadway near Central.
                                          That said, I think the one in Whistler (aptly called 'mongolie grill') has a great thing going on. Its done by weight, so you decided everything, it has fresh ingrediants, different ones every time, and all very fresh. THis is the only place I have ever enjoyed it...They do a great job of entertaining while they fry, even when its busy, I have never felt like I was in a salad bar, the space is well done...